Abner Mikva, Liberal Voice From Illinois, Dies At 90

July 05, 2016
President Barack Obama awards former Illinois Rep. Abner Mikva the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

President Barack Obama awards former Illinois Rep. Abner Mikva the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Colleagues, friends and family members are paying tribute to Abner Mikva, a former Illinois congressman and judge who died Monday at age 90. Brian Brady, the head of Mikva Challenge, a leadership organization Mikva founded, says Mikva died Monday in hospice care at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Brady says he learned of the death from Mikva's daughters.
 
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says he regarded Mikva as his "North Star for integrity, independence and progressive values.'' Durbin says Mikva's "record of public service was proof that the good guys can win without selling their souls.''

Mikva, a liberal voice and stalwart of Illinois' political landscape for decades, was most recently active in pushing for the U.S. Senate to consider the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Mikva often told of how he initially tried to get involved in Chicago politics but was told: "We don't want nobody nobody sent.''
 
Brady calls Mikva "the ideal public servant'' who was saddened by growing bitter animosity between the parties in Washington.

"Abner Mikva was a dedicated public servant and principled leader, and his focus on encouraging youth to become active and engaged in the democratic process will be felt for generations," said Gov. Bruce Rauner, in a statement.  "Our thoughts are with the entire Mikva family as they mourn their loss today.”

President Barack Obama said he owed a profound debt of gratitude to Mikva.

"When I was graduating law school, Ab encouraged me to pursue public service," he said.  "He saw something in me that I didn’t yet see in myself, but I know why he did it—Ab represented the best of public service himself and he believed in empowering the next generation of young people to shape our country.  Ab’s life was a testament to that truth."
 
Steven Cohen, who is married to Mikva's oldest of three daughters, Mary, says his father-in-law was diagnosed with bladder cancer several months ago, but remained "strong and active'' until a couple of weeks ago. Cohen says the family thinks it is "fitting he died on the Fourth of July'' because he was a "true patriot and had a flair for doing things in a historic way.''
 
Cohen says he'll always remember Mikva's optimism during a close race for Congress in 1974. As the election returns came in and the family waited nervously, Mikva never wavered in optimism and belief in "democracy in action.''

Story source: AP